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O-Line prepares for new-look Ravens 'D'

Posted Sep 14, 2013

Some of the faces have changed on the Baltimore Ravens’ defense, but the attitude and aggressiveness are still present in their front seven.

What makes the Baltimore Ravens’ defense so effective, particularly at home?

Cleveland Browns six-time Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas knows it is a combination of personnel, speed and aggressiveness.

“You look at the front seven they have, especially since that big stat of not giving up 100-yard rushers started, they had Ray Lewis, Bart Scott, Trevor Pryce, Haloti Ngata, Terrell Suggs, Jarrett Johnson; they were studs all across the board,” Thomas said. “Even now, they lost two of their best linebackers and they’ve replaced them with good guys, and they’ve still got Ngata,  who’s probably the best defensive tackle in the NFL, and Suggs on the outside. When you’ve got a front seven that’s as good as they are, you’re not going to give up 100-yard rushers very often.”

The Ravens have pitched a league-best nine shutouts since 2000, scored the second-most defensive touchdowns, 39, since 2003, and out of 224 regular-season games, only 31 players have been able to rush for 100 or more yards dating back to the 1999 season.

Thomas has blocked for two of the 31 running backs who have rushed for 100 yards against the Ravens.

Former Brown Peyton Hillis was the first to do so during the 2010 season. On Sunday, Sept. 26, 2010, Hillis rushed for a game-best 144 yards and one touchdown, including a long run of 48 yards. Last season, rookie running back Trent Richardson crossed into the rarified air when he gained 105 yards on 25 carries against the Ravens on Nov. 4, 2012.

In preparing to face the Ravens, offensive lineman John Greco said the secret to success lies in film study.

“They have stout guys in the middle,” Greco said. “Their linebackers have good instincts, and their edge guys are able to shed off blocks pretty well. They do some things inside where they move some guys inside and it creates issues.

“You study and you get a feel for the guys you’re going against. (It’s about) having a plan that we do on offense and sticking to it.”

In addition to the film study, part of having success against the Ravens is in neutralizing the pass rush.

Since 2003, the Ravens are second in total defense (283.6 yards allowed per game) and sacks (220), and first in both interceptions (115) and points per game (15.6). Dating back to 2008, opposing quarterbacks have carried an average rating of 66.8 against the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium.

During this latest period of dominance, outside linebacker Terrell Suggs has registered 85.5 quarterback sacks.

“He’s obviously one of the best,” Thomas said. “A couple years ago, he was the Defensive Player of the Year and doesn’t seem to be slowing down at all, even in his 11th year. If anything, he’s getting better. It’s a great challenge for any player. I watch the best tackles in the NFL on film go against him, and he wins just as many (battles) as they do. It’s always a great challenge. He’s a great player, and he’s always disruptive.”